By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Penang on Tuesday, 17th August, 1993:
DAP calls on Dr. Koh Tsu Koon to get the State Exco at its weekly meeting tomorrow to revoke forfeiture of the land of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck God
The Penang Chief Minister, Dr Koh Tsu Koon, through his political secretary, Goik Hock Lai, had said that the Penang State Government would “as fast as possible through normal administrative procedures return the forfeited land of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God to the Management Committee”.
What Dr. Koh Tsu Koon should explain is why as Penang Chief Minister, he allowed the Penang State Government to forfeit the land of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God, when he should have known that because of its religious, historic and cultural significance, the over-hundred-year-old temple deserve to be declared a ‘historical monument’ in Penang.
Or is Dr. Koh Tsu Koon really suggesting – as claimed by his political secretary, Goik Hock Lai yesterday – that he knew nothing about the forfeiture of the land of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God until August 9, the day the Penang DAP MPs and Assemblymen in Seberang Prai jointly demanded a full explanation from Tsu Koon on the matter.
Although the forfeiture of the land of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God was gazetted on July 8, 1993, the decision to forfeit the land was made by the Penang State Government on June 22. Furthermore, the Penang State Government had gazetted its notice of intention to forfeit the land of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God three months earlier.
If Dr. Koh Tsu Koon wants the people to believe that he knew nothing about the forfeiture of the land of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God until the invention by DAP Seberang Prai MPs and Assemblymen, Sdr, Chian Heng Kai, Sdr. LIM Hock Seng, Sdr. Wong Hang Yoke, Sdr. Phee Boon Poh and Sdr.Chin Kooi Toon on August 9, then it could only mean three things:
Firstly, Tsu Koon has again proved that he is not in full control over the Penang State Government of which he is the nominal head;
Secondly, Tsu Koon’s sources of information about what is happening in the Penang State Government and Penang State is worse than those of the DAP MPs and Assemblymen; and
Thirdly, Goik Hock Tai is an incompetent political secretary to the Chief Minister, when he does not know what is happening in Bukit Mertajam – where he is one of the State Assemblymen in the area.
Who must bear the great responsibility for the forfeiture of the temple land – Tsu Koon or Hock Lai?
In actual fact, way back in April this year, Goik Hock Lai had promised the temple Management Committee following the gazetted notice of intention to forfeit the temple land that the matter would be referred to the Chief Minister, Dr, Koh Tsu Koon for solution.
If Tsu Koon had acted at that time, there would be on forfeiture of the Bukit Mertajam Tua Bek Kong Temple land today!
Who must bear the greatest responsibility for the forfeiture of the Bukit Mertajam Tua Beck Kong Temple land – Koh Tsu Koon or Goik Hock Lai?
It is significant that Tsu Koon, through his political secretary, Goik Hock Lai, had refused to give a firm indication as to when the State Government would return the forfeited land to Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God. Hock Lai said the State Government would return the forfeited land ‘as fast as possible through the normal administrative procedures’ but admitted that it would ‘take some time’.
This can take from one, three, five or more years. If the Penang State Government can forfeit the land of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng Gid with a ‘stroke of the pen’, the people of Bukit Mertajam and Penang have a right to demand that this gross injustice which showed utter contempt for the religious sensitivities of the people should be rectified immediately.
When Goik Hock Lai spoke on behalf of Dr. Koh Tsu Koon that the forfeited temple land would be returned ‘as fast as possible through the normal administrative procedures’, what exactly did the Chief Minister mean.
Tsu Koon should give public assurance that the State Government would not demand penalty six times the RM37,435.30 owed by the temple as condition for annulment of forfeiture of temple land
Goik Hock Lai referred to Section 133 of the National land Code which empowers the State Government to annual any forfeiture by imposing a penalty equivalent to six times the amount owed before forfeiture.
Bukit Mertajam Tua Beck Kong temple owes quit rent and late payment fines amounting to RM37,435.30 and, if the State Government imposes a penalty six times the amount owed before forfeiture, this would mean the colossal total sum of RM224,661.80.
This is clearly unacceptable, especially as the forfeiture of the temple land could have been avoided completely if Tsu Koon or Hock Lai had acted on the matter when the matter was referred to them for solution in April this year.
As it is Tsu Koon or Hock Lai who must bear the full responsibility for the forfeiture of the temple land, Tsu Koon should get the State Executive Council at its weekly meeting tomorrow to revoke the forfeiture of the land of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God – so that the land which had a history of over a hundred years reverts back immediately to the Management Committee of the Temple.
Tsu Koon should give public assurance that the State Government would not demand a penalty six times the RM37,435.30 owed by Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God as a condition for annulment of the forfeiture of the temple land.
In fact, as the forfeited of the temple land would not have taken place if Tsu Koon or Hock Lai ad acted in April to resolve the issue, there should not only be no penalty, but the quit rent of the entire Bukit Mertajam Tua Beck Kong temple should be reduced to a nominal figure, thus automatically cancelling the RM37,435.30 outstanding quit rent arrears and late payment fines.
I am not surprised that Goik Hock Lai did not understand my speech in the Penang State Assembly on July 1, calling for a 12-month amnesty for late-payment fines for arrears of quit rent.
Finally, the time has come for Dr. Koh Tsu Koon himself to declare the stand of the Penang State Government on the revocation of the forfeiture of land of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck God – and not through his political secretary. This will prevent Tsu Koon from denying responsibility by claiming that statements made by his political secretary, Goik Hock Lai, did not have his authority.